With Mexico poised to elect its first Jewish president, Vincente Fox has shamelessly exploited his position as its former president to sow antisemitism.
The target of his vile attacks, Claudia Sheinbaum, is the 61-year-old former mayor of Mexico City — the first Jewish woman to hold this post. Sheinbaum, a member of the left-of-center National Regeneration Movement (Morena Party), is her party’s nominee for president.
If she win this year’s election, as is widely expected, she would become Mexico’s first female and first Jewish president.
According to polls, she is favored to defeat Xochitl Galvez, her main rival and the candidate of the right-wing National Action Party, in the presidential election set to take place on June 2.
Sheinbaum is an ally of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the founder of the Morena Party. Born in Mexico City, she is a secular Jew and the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Bulgaria. An environmental scientist, she was a member of a United Nations team that won the Nobel Prize in 2007 for its work on climate change.
Judging by her resume, Sheinbaum is an attractive candidate, even in a predominantly Roman Catholic country like Mexico. At last count, 77 percent of its population was Catholic, with Evangelical Christians and Muslims comprising almost the rest.
Less than one percent of Mexicans are Jewish.
According to Fox, Mexico’s president from 2000 to 2006 and a dominant figure in the National Action Party, Sheinbaum is a foreigner rather than a real Mexican.
Last July, Fox complained that Obrador had cancelled monthly pensions to retired presidents and used a slur to denounce “lazy”people who “don’t belong in the government or in the country.”
Sheinbaum and other leaders in the Morena Party condemned Fox, who shot back by calling her a “Bulgarian Jew” and Marcello Ebrard, a former foreign minister whose ancestors hail from France, a “French snob.”
“The only Mexican is Xochti!” he added, suggesting that Jews and Mexicans of foreign descent are not authentic Mexicans.
Fox’s diatribe is nothing less than hypocritical, given that his mother, Mercedes Quesada Etxaide, was a Basque immigrant from Spain and that his father, José Luis Fox Pont, whose original surname was Fuchs, was the son of German and French immigrants.
Not surprisingly, his comments led to an uproar, compelling him to issue an apology. “I have a profound respect for the Jewish community,” he wrote, a claim that inspired mockery in some quarters.
Fox was at it again last September.
During a rally in the southern state of Oaxaca, Sheinbaum was seen wearing an embroidered Indigenous blouse and a beaded rosary necklace with a crucifix hanging from it. She posted a YouTube video of the event.
Fox, in a Facebook tweet, attacked Sheinbaum. “This woman is a fake,” he wrote. “Isn’t she supposed to be Jewish? If she’s insincere in her religion and her principles, she’ll be insincere in everything else.”
In his post, Fox also wrote of Sheinbaum, “Jewish and foreign at the same time.”
Responding to Fox’s slurs, Sheinbaum explained she had been given the rosary during an Indigenous cleansing ceremony and kept it on only while delivering a speech.
Fox’s fusillades against Sheinbaum may be nothing more than politically inspired, but they reflect the classic antisemitic trope of the Jew as a foreigner. In this sense, Fox was knowingly pandering to antisemites.
Yet Fox is not the only political figure in Mexico who has stooped so low. Alfredo Jalife-Rahme, a member of Sheinbaum’s party and a conspiracy theorist, accused her in 2012 of maintaining close ties with Jewish real estate developers, and more recently, he said he would not vote for her because she is a Zionist.
It’s virtually impossible to ascertain whether some Mexican voters will reject Sheinbaum as a presidential candidate just because she is Jewish. But it goes without saying that Fox’s corrosive comments may turn some Mexicans against her candidacy.